Monday, June 13, 2011
Speaking Up: When, Where, Why?
Recently, I was at lunch with a good friend of mine. Let’s call this friend Jack. Jack and I were enjoying each other’s company and conversation until he brought up a girl we both know (we’ll call her Susie). Jack went on to describe how much he did not like Susie. “She’s cold,” he said, “honestly, I have never felt an ounce of warmth from Susie,” Jack went on. Now, I may not have gotten my feathers all ruffled if it wasn’t for the fact that I happen to like Susie! I told Jack that perhaps all his built up frustration with Susie is stemming from the fact that he doesn’t know her all that well. “I, on the other hand, have spent a lot of time with Susie,” I told him. “She really is pretty awesome,” I continued. “No man,” Jack said, “she’s cold, she’s a b****.”
And there’s the rub. I was perfectly respectful of Jack’s thoughts on Susie until the final above-mentioned comment of his. Sure, I thought his opinions were unwarranted. I had concluded that Jack just didn’t know her and that he just didn’t know what he was saying. However, that all changed when he employed the use of a single word: a word so derogatory, chauvinistic, and offensive that I simply could not listen to my good friend Jack any longer. I stopped him right in his tracks. I interrupted him and told him he had crossed the line. Jack looked confused, surprised at how irritated I had become. I explained to him that that word was exceptionally hateful and that he had no idea what he was talking about. Jack laughed it off and insisted he did not mean to be hateful. I believed him. In fact, I felt bad I had gotten so hostile towards him. I even apologized!
Now, as I reflect on my scuffle with Jack I only feel worse. I should have held my ground. I should have defended Susie with more passion. I definitely should not have apologized. So I ask, readers, am I analyzing this too closely? Was I out of line in confronting my good friend and perhaps, if the discussion was prolonged, putting our relationship in jeopardy? In a more general sense, what are your thoughts on speaking up? When is it appropriate and when is it best to just let it slide?